Oct 2, 2009

Keeping it Simple and Starting Small

When it comes to nutrition and exercise, all the information out there may seem like these are areas of anyone's life that are bound to be anything but simple. I agree that we are bombarded with conflicting information that is often benefiting the special interests behind the information more than the people the information is claiming to want to help. That being said, it doesn't have to be that complicated. Really, it doesn't. Chris Lopez of Fit and Busy Dad wrote a great guest post on Zen Habits not too long ago that covered 7 essential rules to optimum health. Along those same lines, I'd like to offer a couple of my own tips for keeping exercise and nutrition simple and starting small. I will be coming back to this topic again and again in later posts, especially because exercise and nutrition are two things I am very passionate about.

1. Start moving. A little movement is better than nothing, a lot of movement is better than a little. You don't need to join an expensive gym, buy a lot of fancy equipment or a whole new exercise wardrobe, or stock your shelves with the latest exercise DVDs.

How about starting with a nice long walk after dinner? Or maybe take your kids to the park to play instead of taking them to the movies or buying them a new video game.

Now, if you already consider yourself an athlete, the gym membership, or new weight bench, or new exercise top may be in line with what you want to help increase your performance. But the reality is that today many people are far too sedentary. The reality is we just don't move enough. And often times the movement we do do is offset by bad choices, misinformation, and hype. I cannot tell you how many people I see at the gym (yes, I do have a gym membership, but that will be the topic of another post) who come in, drinking their high-calorie energy drinks and polishing off their chemically-laden "nutrition bars." Many of them then jump on the treadmill for a while, or do a circuit on the weight machines, and then leave... Often, it is these same people who wonder why they are still obese, or out-of-shape, or both.

I am NOT faulting these individuals. But I am suggesting there is another way, a simpler way to start and maintain an exercise routine. Start walking. Today. If you don't have a good pair of running or walking shoes, make the investment. Instead of visiting the nearest corporate shoe store to find the best deal, visit a local running store. More often than not, local running stores are staffed by trained professionals who will take the time to make sure you find a shoe that fits correctly. And then, start walking. Ask a neighbor to join you, or your spouse, or your kids. Or walk alone and enjoy the solitude. Walking is great exercise and it is simple exercise. Start small and enjoy the journey.

2. Eat whole foods. Period. Anything that comes out of a box or bag in fancy packaging is not whole. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans are just some of the many whole foods that are available to most everyone. If you have access to a local farmer's market, check it out. Meet the farmers who are growing locally in your area. And ask them if they take food stamps. If they don't, organize or join a grass-roots effort to make this happen. Good, wholesome food should be accessible to everyone.

At the grocery store, stick to the perimeter of the store. Avoid the isles. Avoid the diet foods. Don't buy into the corporate, profit-based model of food that has overtaken our food industry in the United States. Educate yourself. Read about the benefits of whole foods; subscribe to blogs, like this one, that feature wholesome, easy-to-make recipes. As anyone who knows me can attest to, I am no genius in the kitchen. However, every vegan, gluten-free recipe I've tried from Susan's collection has been wonderful.

Eating whole foods does not have to wreak havoc on your budget either, especially if you choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Meat is expensive. Vegetables and fruits are not. If you feel like you cannot give up meat, make sure you know where your meat is coming from. Read a variety of sources, and question everything. Do not just assume that because the meat comes in a package with a picture of a pasture on the front that the meat you are buying came from anything that even remotely resembles a pasture.

Start with where you are at and commit to making one small change a day, or a week, or a month. Your body and your planet will thank you.

Peace and Health,

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